THE FAN, the German arthouse shocker that did for the German punk music scene what CHRISTIANE F. did (cinematically) for the drug scene, finally comes stateside in a Blu-ray/DVD combo
Seventeen-year-old West German teen Simone (Désirée Nosbusch, GOOD MORNING BABYLON) is in love with a pop star. What else is new? She writes constantly to R (Bodo Steiger) constantly and waits in vain for an answer from the postman (Klaus Münster, SHINING THROUGH) who may be the only one to realize this infatuated teenager is actually batshit crazy. She walks about in a daze, disconnected from the world through her headphones having vivid fantasies in which R returns her love. When R refuses to give her any indication that he reciprocates her love – through a reply letter or a special signal during his television appearances – she comes to believe that his secretary or even her own mother (Helga Tölle, RUN, VIRGIN, RUN) may be jealously hiding his replies from her. When her father (Jonas Vischer) threatens to send her to boarding school, Simone packs a bag and hitchhikes her way to Munich to seek out R in the flesh. When she faints upon seeing him, R gallantly brings her into the television studio and makes her guest of honor at his Top Pop television performance. Flighty or genuinely strung out, R decides to get away from his secretary, agent, pending television appearances, and his recording deadline by spiriting Simone away with him to the remote villa of a friend abroad without telling anyone of his whereabouts or when he will be back. Cloistered in a shrine to the 1936 German Olympics, Simone gives into R's seduction only to be devastatingly awakened to his callous true nature, and he to the extremes of her devotion.
Taking a decidedly restrained approach to the conflation of sex and death than the later NEKROMANTIK films, THE FAN is a love story that draws parallels between pop idolization and Nazism. While there is a certain timeliness with a new age of obsessive pop star fans, this generation is more likely to kill critics (and other "haters") than their idols who themselves can get away with horrible things without losing fans. The gorgeous Nosbusch gives a performance that is superficially blank (appropriately so) and almost somnambulistic at times while Steiger (lead singer for the band Rheingold that also scored the film) is almost robotic in demeanor that gives a feeling of ritual to their sexual encounter in contrast to the Simone's "passion" during the film's grim, almost wordless final act. Even if the fascist references seem heavy-handed, THE FAN seems like less of an exploitation film masquerading as an art film than the genuine article with director Eckhart Schmidt – an admirer of and writer on Germany's punk and New Wave musical movements – informed and disturbed (and possibly even hopeful during its coda which might just as well be a further delusion given the final sound effect).
Mondo Macabro's Blu-ray features a sterling 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that looks crisp and cool during the daytime scenes (except for a few filtered shots) while some of the darker shots during the climax look a tad softer and coarser. The original German mono track is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and has a healthy presence when it comes to the dialogue and Rheingold's music score while an English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 dub sounds blander in performance and somewhat in quality. The optional English subtitles translate R's song "One Moment" but not the later one he performs with the mannequins for the Top Pop TV show (the songs remain in German on the English dub).
The sole video extra is an interview with director Eckhart Schmidt (19:54) who discusses his beginnings in shooting news reels, short films, and his interests in painting and music. He founded a music magazine to follow the pop and punk movements with contributions from many British and American bands. The feature began life in the form of a fictional diary of a girl serialized in the magazine. He touches upon the films National Socialist references and R's almost cyborg-like fascist demeanor, as well as the film's love story (which suggests that R will be reborn into a better person). He recalls the production going smoothly with no trouble from Nosbusch until the film's release when she objected two shots and wanted to them to be cut. The case was brought to court because Nosbusch had not signed a contract for the film and her boyfriend/manager did not have her parents' authorization to sign on her behalf. Schmidt submitted as evidence the storyboards for the scene that showed that they he had not deviated from what the actress agreed to shoot (the two would mend their relationship years later). Schmdit also reveals that he shot an "it was all a dream" ending to get past the censors and then scissored it out of all of the prints before the film premiered.
The "About the Film" essay on the disc reiterates much of what is learned in the interview and is shorter than the essays on other Mondo Macabro releases, but it does reveal that the film is a favorite of Japanese cannibal killer Issei Sagawa who recommends it in interviews. A second essay discusses the band Rheingold and lead singer Bodo Steiger in the context of German "kraut rock" and German New Wave. The DVD reproduces the contents of the Blu-ray in standard definition NTSC. Besides the combo, THE FAN is also being offered by directly from Mondo Macabro in a 500-copy limited Blu-ray only edition in a red case. (Eric Cotenas)
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